The Matt Signal – Episode 95: Torch Song

Plot summary: Pyrotechnics expert Garfield Lynns adopts the persona Firefly and sets half of Gotham on fire to try and win back his famous ex-girlfriend.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Torch Song’

Original Air Date: June 13th, 1998

Directed: Curt Geda (3)

Written: Rich Fogel (2)

Firefly was planned for Batman The Animated Series, but they were forbidden from using any fire-based characters by the Fox censors. Sigh.

Batgirl sort of breaks the fourth wall by referencing Pinky and the Brain, another WB Show.

Officer Vincenzo is named after Darren Vincenzo, who served as Batman comics editor in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Howlin’ Jack is a tribute to radio personality Wolfman Jack, right down to his distinctive voice.

Recap

Bruce Wayne’s eyebrow-raisingly young girlfriend, Shannon, drags him to a concert by singing sensation Cassidy. The star rebuffs the aggressive advances of her ex-boyfriend, Garfield Lynns and gets him… fired… from his job as her pyrotechnics expert.

The gig starts, but Lynns snaps and turns the flames up to maximum, causing the audience to flee and leaving Cassidy trapped amidst the burning stage. Bruce is unable to act due to his date, but luckily Barbara was attending the same concert and makes the save as Batgirl.

Harvey Bullock and the GCPD raid Lynns’ apartment, which is absolutely covered in pictures and posters of Cassidy, but with Garfield nowhere to be seen as he’s busy in a secret workshop across town cooking up… something.

Cassidy agrees to attend a club opening despite a threatening anonymous note. Naturally, Lynns attends in a home-made costume and sets the club ablaze.

Batgirl saves Cassidy (and the rest of the patrons) for the second time but Batman fails to capture ‘Firefly’ and almost dies in the process.

Intrigued, Bruce infiltrates Cassidy’s penthouse despite all the security her manager claims will ensure her safety and asks what the connection between her and Firefly is. She fills him in on their past and attempts to seduce our hero, who naturally declines.

Barbara logs materials from Lynns’ apartment for her father (not a concern at all that the police commissioner would have his teenage daughter do this) and finds a lead on Firefly’s warehouse workshop.

While investigating the lair, Barbara inadvertently triggers an enormous explosion that levels much of the building. Babs is injured during the escape, forcing her to stay in the Batcave as Bruce heads back out to rescue Cassidy, who Firefly kidnapped during their botched investigation.

Firefly demonstrates a gel of his own creation capable of setting ANYTHING alight to a terrified Cassidy, but before he can dump a drum of it into the sewers, Batman intervenes, clad in a special fire-proof armour and wielding a cold gun.

Hero and villain take turns knocking each other on their asses, but Firefly tries and fails to flee the scene as the factory goes up in flames, leaving Bruce to carry Cassidy to safety, though we see some time later she has developed an intense fear of fire.

Best Performance

Karla DeVito was a professional singer, making her a logical casting for Cassidy, though whoever wrote the awful song she performs did her NO favours. Still, she’s fun, she’s flirty and she’s good at sounding famous and bossing around her employees. Her failed seduction of Bruce resulting in her labelling him a creep was a particular highlight. In an episode with several strong performances, hers probably stands out the most because of how much presence she had.

Tara Strong’s playful jab at Bruce at the concert was great, and she also nails both the “Hi, I’m a big fan” line, and the Pinky and the Brain reference. Mark Rolsten made for a sufficiently sinister Firefly, and basically did his job and nothing more. Tom F. Wilson’s little cameo as Howlin’ Jake was pretty solid as well.

Ranking

This was a straightforward episode, but executed incredibly well thanks to how effectively they conveyed the intensity of the four big fire scenes. You’d think going to the same well that many times would have diminishing returns, but between the animation and the audio, each one delivered surprisingly high stakes. I hadn’t actually noticed the lack of fire before now, but it made for a refreshing new challenge for Batman, as he can’t simply punch his way through a force of nature. Each escape is narrower than the last, and they allow for lots of saving the innocent but letting the villain escape moments.

The Cassidy/Lynns story was done pretty well, with the opening scene at the concert doing a lot of character work for both them and our two heroes before transitioning nicely into the ongoing threat of the episode. Creepy tech guy stalking a woman whose affections he overestimated tracks pretty well, and Firefly made a strong debut (see below.)

The touch of ending with Cassidy still traumatised was shockingly bleak for a show that may enjoy tragedy, but generally tries to end on an optimistic note. Honestly, I’m kind of mad that we won’t see her again to follow up on this clearly unfinished business.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Harlequinade
  6. The Trial
  7. Riddler’s Reform
  8. Double Talk
  9. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  10. I Am the Night
  11. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  12. Baby-Doll
  13. Sins of the Father
  14. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
  15. The Man Who Killed Batman
  16. Perchance to Dream
  17. Two-Face Part I
  18. Torch Song (NEW ENTRY)
  19. You Scratch My Back
  20. Bane
  21. Batgirl Returns
  22. A Bullet For Bullock
  23. Joker’s Favor
  24. Read My Lips
  25. Feat of Clay Part II
  26. Catwalk
  27. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  28. Harley and Ivy
  29. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  30. House & Garden
  31. Beware the Gray Ghost
  32. Growing Pains
  33. Holiday Knights
  34. Second Chance
  35. Mad as a Hatter
  36. Heart of Steel Part II
  37. Appointment In Crime Alley
  38. Two-Face Part II
  39. Pretty Poison
  40. Deep Freeze
  41. Harley’s Holiday
  42. Lock-Up
  43. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  44. Feat of Clay Part I
  45. Cold Comfort
  46. His Silicon Soul
  47. Off Balance
  48. Vendetta
  49. Birds of a Feather
  50. Joker’s Millions
  51. Heart of Steel Part I
  52. Never Fear
  53. On Leather Wings
  54. Love is a Croc
  55. See No Evil
  56. The Clock King
  57. It’s Never Too Late
  58. Make ‘Em Laugh
  59. Joker’s Wild
  60. Eternal Youth
  61. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  62. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  63. Zatanna
  64. Day of the Samurai
  65. Avatar
  66. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  67. The Mechanic
  68. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  69. Terror in the Sky
  70. P.O.V.
  71. Christmas with the Joker
  72. Fear of Victory
  73. Be a Clown
  74. The Worry Men
  75. What is Reality?
  76. Fire From Olympus
  77. Night of the Ninja
  78. Mudslide
  79. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  80. Nothing to Fear
  81. The Lion and the Unicorn
  82. Prophecy of Doom
  83. Tyger, Tyger
  84. Blind as a Bat
  85. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  86. Dreams In Darkness
  87. The Last Laugh
  88. Cat Scratch Fever
  89. Moon of the Wolf
  90. Paging the Crime Doctor
  91. Time Out of Joint
  92. Sideshow
  93. The Under-Dwellers
  94. The Forgotten
  95. Showdown
  96. The Terrible Trio
  97. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Firefly (Mark Rolston) (first appearance)

Honestly, there’s not much depth, but given what a rock solid gimmick he has, there doesn’t need to be. He’s a jilted creepo who uses his special skills to become a costumed supervillain, terrorises his ex, and almost succeeds in blowing up all of Gotham.

Between the flamethrower, fire sword, jetpack and armour, he makes for a durable, unpredictable threat to Batman, who has to roll out specialised armour (and seemingly his own cold gun!) to take him down. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing in Batman/Spider-Man/Iron Man, with the hero having to adapt to the threat of the week. As I said above, I’m annoyed this is his only substantial appearance and would have liked to have seen what else the writers could have done with him.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. The Riddler
  9. The Phantasm
  10. Baby-Doll
  11. Bane
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Clayface
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Ra’s al Ghul
  16. Killer Croc
  17. Firefly (NEW ENTRY)
  18. Lock-Up
  19. Penguin
  20. Lloyd Ventrix
  21. Scarecrow
  22. Rupert Thorne
  23. Count Vertigo
  24. Clock King
  25. Nivens
  26. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  27. Enrique el Gancho
  28. Josiah Wormwood
  29. Talia al Ghul
  30. Sid the Squid
  31. Queen Thoth Khepera
  32. Maxie Zeus
  33. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  34. Tony Zucco
  35. Man-Bat
  36. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  37. Hugo Strange
  38. Red Claw
  39. Arnold Stromwell
  40. Mad Bomber
  41. Tygrus
  42. Kyodai Ken
  43. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  44. Grant Walker
  45. Gil Mason
  46. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  47. Cameron Kaiser
  48. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  49. Mad Dog
  50. Ubu
  51. Professor Milo
  52. Romulus
  53. Arkady Duvall
  54. Sewer King
  55. Boss Biggis
  56. Montague Kane
  57. The Terrible Trio

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, continues coverage of Loki this week.

There Will Be Movies returns soon with Ben & Matt taking a look back at the 90s. If you can’t wait, why not check out the brand new honourable mentions episodes for the first two volumes?

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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